A Tale of Two Films

In the last two days, two different people have enthusiastically mentioned the new movie, 27 Dresses to me. Purportedly, the story is about a single gal who is always a bridesmaid, never the bride, and who embraces her decision to remain single; spouting off witty comebacks when relatives question her single status. Naturally, being a single gal myself (and having been a bridesmaid a few times), this movie should appeal to me. But let me tell you why it doesn’t (as if you couldn’t guess!)

Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but allow me to conjecture a bit on how this story (featuring the gorgeous Katherine Heigl) is going to play out. She’s a bubbly twenty-something, happy-go-lucky single gal who has a romping good time partying it up as a bridesmaid at various weddings…convincing herself and everyone around her that being single is the way to go…but something’s missing in her life…only she doesn’t realize it until she meets HIM. She will reluctantly fall for HIM and it will suddenly become clear that she does indeed want to be married and the single life is not for her after all. And in the end she will be well on her way to the altar and ultimately to matrimonial bliss. And that’s fine. I’m sure this movie will do well at the box office with young unmarried girls and married women. Another validation.

But, how much more interesting could this premise of a female enjoying her single status be if the protagonist was in her late thirties or forties...never had any desire to marry… was happy and successful… enjoyed the bridesmaid gigs… felt completely fulfilled with her life… and REMAINED blissfully single? What a concept. Instead of replaying the tired thread of “you are not normal, you are not complete, until you have succumbed to the siren call of matrimony”, let the single gal be single. Validate a woman’s decision to by-pass the whole marriage thing and still be a whole person. Put an enticing glow around the single life so that young girls realize their worth is not determined by marriage, and there are other (perhaps even better) paths to choose from.

This rant makes me sound fantastically anti-marriage, but honestly, I’m not. It just kills me that a mainstream movie like this, which will have broad appeal, didn’t have the gumption (what a great word – gumption) to take this perfect opportunity to present the story in a creative, empowering way, instead of relying on the misconception that marriage is the only “normal” choice for women.

So, the likelihood of me going to see 27 Dresses is remote at best. However, if I get the chance to see the film Persepolis anytime soon, you better believe I’ll be first in line at the ticket booth!

I saw the preview for this French film when Dan and I went to see Sweeny Todd last week. The movie is animated… but don’t let that turn you away. It’s based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi on growing up in contemporary Iran.

Here’s what Stephen Holden at the NYT had to say about it:

The movie is a semi-autobiographical first-hand account of Iran’s troubled history from the days of the shah through the Islamist revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Its narrator, also named Marjane, is a spirited young rebel from a closely knit, middle-class family, struggling to define her identity (at one point she is a punk listening to smuggled Iron Maiden tapes) in a repressive climate whose shifting political winds require wrenching personal adjustments. For a time, she lives as an expatriate student in Vienna.

As one regime supplants another and war rages, many thousands die. Her family’s hopes for political and social equilibrium are dashed as retribution is meted out, and enemies, real and imagined, are purged. Marjane eventually leaves Iran to settle in Paris.

For all the pessimism nipping at the movie’s edges, the chaos and inhumanity surrounding Marjane are held at bay by familial love, especially the devotion of her wise, hard-headed grandmother, who has seen it all. Chiara Mastroianni is the voice of Marjane as a young adult, and the great French star Danielle Darrieux is the grandmother.

“Persepolis” makes you contemplate the processes of history. Buried under each wave of “reform,” it suggests, are cultural traditions that will eventually resurface no matter how repressive the climate of the moment. The movie is also tacitly feminist in its depiction of Islamist patriarchs as ludicrous misogynist prudes.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Can’t wait til it comes to a theater near me!

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